1531 Imperial election

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The imperial election of 1531 was an imperial election held to select the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. It took place in Cologne on January 5.


This was the second imperial election to take place during the Reformation. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther, a professor of moral theology at the University of Wittenberg, now part of the Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg, had delivered the Ninety-five Theses to Albert of Brandenburg, the elector of Mainz. This list of propositions criticized the practice of selling indulgences, remissions of the punishment meted out for sin in Purgatory. Luther's criticism snowballed into a massive schism in the church. In 1527, John, Elector of Saxony, the elector of Saxony, established a Lutheran state church in Saxony with the elector as chief bishop.

The Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor called for the election of his successor. The prince-electors called to Cologne for this occasion were:

John remained the only Protestant. Hermann, though a bishop, showed reforming tendencies, and would eventually be deposed from his episcopate in 1546. The remaining electors were strongly pro-Catholic.

Charles had called the election by the terms of the Habsburg compact of 1521-1522 signed with his younger brother Ferdinand, according to which he was expected to call for an Imperial election after he was crowned by the Pope. The coronation took place in 1530, and Charles convoked the seven princes to elect Ferdinand.

Election and aftermath[edit]

Ferdinand was elected King of the Romans in the city of Cologne. Charles continued to be Holy Roman Emperor for over 25 years. In 1550, he regretted the election as he realized that it would have led to the division of the House of Austria between his son Philip II of Spain and Ferdinand. He therefore pacted with his family in 1551 that Philip was the successor of Ferdinand.[1][2] Charles also tried to arrange political marriages to mantain the unity of the Habsburgs.

However, Charles V abdicated on August 27, 1556. The Imperial Diet accepted his abdication on May 3, 1558. Ferdinand was crowned at Frankfurt. Philip did not succeed Ferdinand. His successor, Maximilian II, Holy Roman Emperor and son of Ferdinand, was chosen during his reign in the imperial election of 1562. The electors, fearing the instability that would have resulted in having an absentee Spanish-speaking emperor born in Valladolid, had lobbied instead for Maxmilian.